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Silence: A Meaningful Political Category

Global Studies has become a very popular subject in recent times, especially in former colonial countries of the Eastern or South-eastern Hemisphere, like India. The main purpose of studying this subject is to present the knowledge or experience and tradition of these neglected countries to the Global Community. It is expected that Global Studies would assist the knowledge-bases in the erstwhile colonies associated with homogenous mainstream knowledge. As a result, the scope of knowledge of marginalised people would be broadened, and mainstream education could overcome its monotonous character. Eventually, the distinction between marginalised knowledge and mainstream knowledge would be erased.

Delivering a lecture in March 1984, French Philosopher Gilles Deleuze (January 18, 1925 – November 4, 1995) described the nature of the aesthetic works, saying that any creation was actually a kind of resistance… against Power, against the State Control. In other words, any Aesthetic Action means a Political Reaction. It is evident in History that thinkers have always resisted the State Power, aesthetically or intellectually. Hence, a Totalitarian State often brands the protesters as Urban Naxals (or Urban Hooligans), and harasses them with the help of Judiciary.

Gilles Deleuze

It is felt that there is no significant difference between developed Europe and developing India in this respect. France was embroiled in a Class Struggle throughout the first half of the 19th Century. In the shadow of the French Revolution of 1789, a three-day revolution, ensuring a bloodbath, took place in France in July 1830. The workers joined the revolution triggered by the traders and factory owners against the Monarch. A new impetus for Freedom was transmitted to the minds of the middle class and the toiling masses through this revolution. This event not only put an end to the old regime, called Restoration, but also ushered in a new era of the July Monarchy. Things changed again after the February Revolution of 1848, with the end of July Monarchy and the beginning of the Second French Republic.

Within a few days, it became clear that the Bourgeoisie betrayed the Working Class, after capturing Power. This time, the Socialists, jointly with the Working Class, revolted against the State. As expected, the State used terror to suppress the revolution. This event gave birth to a new political system, the Second French Empire. The Second French Empire was the 18-year Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from January 14, 1852 to September 4, 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic. Historians in the 1930s and 1940s often disparaged the Second Empire as a precursor of Fascism. In his essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, German Philosopher Karl Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) discussed this period in detail. During those 18 years, Freedom of Speech was violated, newspapers were banned, and eminent poets, like Victor-Marie Hugo (February 26, 1802 – May 22, 1885), were exiled. The horrific genocide of June 1848 was one of the rarest events in Human History, with which only Auschwitz could be compared.

Franc 2, 1868, Second French Empire (1852-70), Silver Napoleon III (1808-73)

Interestingly, the violence gave birth to a new era, as far as Literature and other forms of Art were concerned. Novelists, poets and painters, such as Gustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880), Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867), Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (June 10, 1819 – December 31, 1877), came up with new language, ideas and fantasies. Their creations triggered a new era in French Culture that could be called the Modern era. This era still influences Art, Literature and Poetry across the globe. In his groundbreaking work on Flaubert, Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (June 21, 1905 – April 15, 1980) said that the Ideology that began in the post-June 1848 period was not just made up of some abstract ideas. It was born from a historic genocide. It contained that genocide inside itself, and also assimilated it into itself.

Criticism of Power has always invited Dictatorship. Hence, the Literature and Art became Apolitical in 1848. Instead of being socially oriented as the Romanticists, the neo-creative personalities started following a completely different path. However, they issued a strong political statement through their works, which could not be understood without using intelligence. After 1848, literature began to speak in a mysterious way. The esoteric opacity in the language of modern poetry, too, has its origin in post-1848 France. Commenting on Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1856), Baudelaire said: “I would especially like to draw the reader’s attention to this suffering, underground and rebellious faculty, which runs through all the work, this dark vein which illuminates, what the English call the Subcurrent, and which serves as a guide through this pandemonic mess of loneliness.

Relying on this subcurrent, one can find an almost exact echo of this event in the Middle Age Bengal (the eastern Indian Province of West Bengal and neighbouring Bangladesh), and in Gaudiya Vaishnava Literature. It may be noted that Vaishnavism, also called Vishnuism, is one of the major forms of modern Hinduism, characterised by devotion to the God Vishnu and his incarnations (avatars), and one of those incarnations is Lord Krishna. The issue about Lord Krishna‘s complexion is well known all over India. However, the way the Vaishnavas of Bengal have given importance to the dark colour has not been given anywhere else in the South Asian nation. Educationist Dinesh Chandra Sen (November 3, 1866 – November 20, 1939) used to believe that there was a historical reason behind this. That, too, is a Politics of Silence.

In the Middle Ages, the rulers, reportedly, used to attack the followers of Vaishnavism brutally in Bengal. However, no Vaishnava recorded the history of that repression. Still, History left its footprints in Bengal, and the followers of Vaishnavism began to worship the Black colour, instead of the idol of Lord Krishna. According to Sen, the colour Black became the symbol of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna

Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939), the Austrian Neurologist and the founder of Psychoanalysis, said that Repression was the root cause of various Behavioural or Psychosomatic Symptoms. Here, Symptom means the expression of a repressed mind in a different form or language. In Bengal, the attack on Vaishnava Literature and the accompanying symptoms of repression (the Black colour) became an important historical event. Later, it got associated with the history of mainstream repression in the West. Perhaps, the Vaishnava Literature shall take the Bengalis to the main entrance of European modernity, and help them understand the language of Silent Resistance through Global Studies.

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